Lofoten Postscript 1 – Hurtigruten Customer Service

 

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In an unusual departure from my normal blog …

From time to time I find myself in correspondence with organisations that IMHO have let me down in one way or another. How they respond sends a real signal in terms of whether they value me as a customer, and makes a difference to whether I’ll continue to use their services or buy their products.

Some examples of positive experiences recently have been Sigma and Sony, in the former case showing a real interest in my experience with early versions of the Quattro, and who went on to loan me kit for the trip to Lofoten, and in the latter case prioritising a replacement camera when my Sony RX1 r II was lost during the voyage up the Norwegian coast … which leads me nicely on to …

… My experience with Hurtigruten, the Norwegian shipping line, when I lost the Sony camera, has been less than positive, and has led to me writing a letter to their CEO, Mr Skjeldam, published below.

I have no real hope that it will change anything, nor do I expect to receive anything in return, and I’m sure many people will have no sympathy for my plight, after all it was my fault that I lost the camera …

… but …

…I do want Mr Skjeldam to understand how much the attitude of the Captain and the impotence of his customer service team (no doubt constrained by company policy to only be able to offer off-the-shelf apologies and trotting out the company line) compounded my frustration and disappointment.

I intend to publish Mr Skjeldam’s reply if and when I receive one.

Dear Mr Skjeldam

On Friday 19th February we boarded the MS Lofoten looking forward to a wonderful voyage up the Norwegian coastline from from Bergen to Boda for a photography trip on the Lofoten Islands, a trip planned for 12 months. As a semi-professional photographer I was hoping to capture the beauty of the islands, and perhaps exhibit some of the images. I’d bought a new camera, a Sony RX1r Mk 2, specially for the trip as its 42mega pixels would allow me to print big, and its low light capabilities would be perfect for dusk and night time shots, a capability that stretched my other, Sigma Foveon based, cameras.

Unfortunately, at the stop at Trondheim, I discovered on returning to the ship that the Sony was missing, most probably lost or perhaps stolen. I would like to stress at this point that I take full responsibility for the loss.

I informed officer Snore Andre Pedersan immediately, and, with 20 minutes before our scheduled departure, asked that the ship delay sailing by 10 minutes, allowing me 30 minutes to retrace my steps and (hopefully) recover the camera. Snore contacted the captain and asked, but my request was dismissed. I requested to speak to the Captain face to face. He arrived ten minutes later and after discussion again refused. The options he gave were to (a) leave the ship immediately and make my own way to Lofoten or (b) remain on board and leave my camera. Option (a) was not a great option! We had no time to gather money or our gear, or indeed just essential gear, let alone sort out accommodation. I had no choice but to leave the camera, and my trip, planned for 12 months, lay in ruins.

During the conversation the Captain was arrogant and rude, showing no empathy in my plight, giving me no real options, insinuating I was being selfish to other passengers in asking for a 10 minute delay, and turning away and leaving mid-conversation. Furthermore, at no time during the remaining voyage did he seek me out to explain the situation from his perspective, nor show any sympathy, let alone apologise. Instead he left me to sit and fume!

At this point I would like to add that officer Snorre Andre Pedersan was extremely helpful and did his upmost to help recover the camera. Despite the camera not being found I was very grateful for his help and rewarded him accordingly.

I contacted your customer service team whilst still on board the ship and have since been in conversation with them. After much correspondence I have received a belated apology from the Captain with a statement that was at best economical with the truth, and an offer of 15% off a voyage if I take it in 2016; in other words that I PAY Hertigruten 85% of the normal cost to repeat a trip I’ve only just returned from!

In my correspondence with customer services I have been told that the ship must operate to a fixed timetable and the Captain had no choice but to sail. I ask what’s the point of a Captain if he cannot exercise his own judgment and discretion, and has no scope to vary a sailing by 10 minutes? Furthermore, we set sail from Trondheim at 12 noon and didn’t arrive at the next port, Rorvik, until 8:45pm, surely adequate time to make up a 10 minute delay, or at least minimise the delay so that my fellow passengers would not have been inconvenienced.

So, nearly two months on, I find myself writing to you to express my real dissatisfaction and disappointment. Though I again stress that I blame myself for the loss of the camera if I had been allowed to retrace my steps immediately I am 80% confident that I would have recovered it, and if not, at least been able to take solace in the fact that I had tried.

I would like to place yourself in my shoes and ask whether you would have tolerated your Captain’s attitude and inflexibly, or lack of communication afterwards, or would have been felt adequately compensated by a 15% discount offer? Of course I would imagine that if you had asked the Captain to delay departure by 10 minutes you might have received a very different response, but perhaps you believe the CEO of the company is more important than a paying customer?

I would like to stress that the cost of the loss was covered by my insurance company, who, I might add, responded immediately. And that on hearing of my plight Sony rushed through a replacement camera within a week. Great examples of two companies that truly believe in customer service!

I now leave this in your hands and for you to determine what it is worth to Hurtigruten to turn an angry, disappointed and upset customer, into one who might consider travelling with you in again (but not in 2016!).

Finally, I would like to add that the Lofoten Islands are a truly wonderful and that no trip to them could be totally ruined. I captured many beautiful images with my other cameras (https://richardjwallsblog.wordpress.com/category/lofoten/page/2/).

In a spirit of openness I’ve published this letter my blog and will publish your reply when received.

Yours in good faith.